"We know better now. Apparently some of us don't."
Over at his Washington Post blog, Daniel Froomkin assails my Post oped and comments at NRO, declaring:
In a Washington Post op-ed yesterday, former Bush speechwriter Marc A. Thiessen made the outrageous and unsupported charge that banning Bush's "enhanced interrogation techniques" would "effectively kill a program that stopped al-Qaeda from launching another Sept. 11-style attack."
Wrote Thiessen: "Information gained using those techniques is responsible for stopping a number of planned attacks — including plots to blow up the American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; to fly airplanes into the towers of Canary Wharf in London; and to fly a hijacked airplane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles."
But as I've repeatedly noted, it's never been proven that any of these attacks were anything more than a fantasy, nor that they were averted due to CIA interrogation.
Thiessen was at it again today on the National Review Web site: "The CIA program he is effectively shutting down is the reason why America has not been attacked again after 9/11. He has removed the tool that is singularly responsible for stopping al-Qaeda from flying planes into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, Heathrow Airport, and London's Canary Warf, and blowing up apartment buildings in Chicago, among other plots. It's not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office."
But Thiessen is making this stuff up, people.
ME: With all due respect, Froomkin is speaking from a pinnacle of near-perfect ignorance. In the summer of 2006, I was asked to prepare a speech revealing the details of the CIA program. I sat down with the people who actually ran the program—the people responsible for breaking up the plots—and, over the course of several months, we painstakingly reconstructed how the questioning of these terrorists led to the disruption of plots. Let me give some details on just one example—the West Coast plot.
A few months after 9/11, a terrorist named Abu Zubaydah was captured. He was a close associate of Osama bin Laden, and ran a camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers had trained. And he helped al Qaeda leaders escape from Afghanistan after the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, including the future leader of al Qaeda's Iraqi branch, Abu Mussab al Zarqawi.
Zubaydah was captured in a gun battle and severely injured. The CIA arranged medical care, saving his life. After he recovered, Zubaydah provided what he thought was nominal information—including that KSM's alias was "Muktar," something our intelligence community did not know. But he soon ceased all cooperation. It was clear to his interrogators that he had received interrogation resistance training, and the traditional methods were not working. So the CIA employed alternative interrogation techniques. And Zubaydah started talking.
He provided information that led to the capture of Ramzi bin al Shibh—one of the key plotters of the 9/11 attacks and a close associated of KSM. Bin al Shibh was the mastermind behind a plot for a follow-on attack to hijack airplanes in Europe, and fly them into Heathrow airport. Now he was off the street and the Heathrow plot was setback.
Together, bin al Shibh and Zubaydah provided information that led to the capture of KSM.
Once in custody, KSM refused to cooperate, until enhanced interrogation techniques—including waterboarding—were used. Then he began to talk.
He gave us information about another terrorist in CIA custody named Majid Khan. KSM told us that Khan had been tasked to deliver $50,000 to a Southeast Asian terrorist named Zubair—an operative with the terrorist network Jemmah Islamiyah, or JI.
Confronted with this information, Khan confirmed KSM's account and gave us information that led to the capture of Zubair.
Zubair then provided information that led to the capture of a JI terrorist leader named Hambali—KSM's partner in developing the West Coast plot. Their strategy was to used Southeast Asian operatives, since KSM knew we would be on the lookout for Arab men.
Told of Hambali's capture, KSM identified Hambali's brother "Gun Gun" as his successor and provided information that led to his capture.
Hambali's brother then gave us information that led us to a cell of 17 JI operatives that were going to carry out the West Coast plot.
Of course, according to Froomkin, I just made all that up.
This is just one of the many plots stopped by this program. According to our intelligence community—not, me, not President Bush, but our intelligence community—without this program, al Qaeda would have succeeded in striking the homeland again. I supposed if the 9/11 plot had been thwarted, people like Froomkin would be telling us how it was never really close to execution and how could men armed with nothing more than box cutters hijack four airplanes simultaneously and fly them into buildings?
We know better now. Apparently some of us don't.
I second Marc Thiessen's conclusion. According to many liberals I debate, all we're doing is getting revenge, not saving lives. This story should be common knowledge among American citizens.